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10:28 a.m. - October 12, 2006
The Stages Of The Mix
Iíve done a lot of mixing lately, and have at least three more in the pipeline, so Iíve been quite busy with the making and delivery of mix CDs recently. However, my iPod is being quite janky (bad iPodÖBAD!) and so Iíll probably mix a lot more in the coming days and weeks. I also have a truckload of new songs and groups to sample and download so those will probably be thrown on a personal mix.

I was thinking as I was finishing these last mixes for The Queen of Pabst, I, Engineer, and Designerchica, and the mix I made for Mz. Tonya, I definitely go through stages, especially after song selection, post-burn, and up to and past delivery of the CDs.

This isnít like Elizabeth Kubler-Rossís stages. Well, OK, maybe it is, in a way. But this isnít grief, this is joy and elation on spreading tunes through the land.

Or something like that.

So what are these stages? Well, letís examine them, shall we. This could make a smashing documentary, to be shown on MTV Ocho in 2019, right? Since that will be yet ANOTHER MTV channel that will stop showing music videos soon after launch.

Anticipation - Just after the songs are selected, and before I move them into play lists, I get a feeling of great anticipation that the mix will delight the recipient. Iím wondering how I will mix certain songs, and what will match up with what. I also smile at how the receiver will react to the songs that Iím giving them. Itís really a neat feeling right then.

Of course, with most of my mixes I carry them as playlists in my iPod for a week, and I really get a feeling of what songs go with what. Yes, I listen to music a ginormous amount of time. So?

Frustration - This is during the actual mix process. It never goes 100% like you planned it. There are songs that are kind of stuck out on a limb, that you donít know what to do with or where to put it. There are songs that you KNOW this person needs and you canít make it fit without disturbing flow.

The most annoying thing is when you DO get the mix just right, and then you look at the time and itís 10 to 15 seconds over time. One of the CDs in the mix of Desingerchica vexed me because I was ALMOST to burn and I noticed that it was 20 seconds over time. So, I was on IM, being very short with a couple of people, as I was scrambling around. I didnít want to lose ANY of the songs.

Ah, but then, I swapped one Prince song for another, and all was well with the world. It wasnít the EXACT Prince song I wanted, but it worked in the context. So then I put it on there, and updated my iPod to give it a listen. Success!

Contemplation - This is probably the most important phase Ė is the mix going to pass muster? Do the songs flow well together? Or is something there just a sore thumb?

I used to listen to my mixes pre-burn quite a bit. I probably over-analyzed them, to be honest. Now, I am almost to the point of mix and then burn without a real sense check. Sorta kinda like going commando, as it were.

But I really do think there needs to be some contemplation if the choices you made are the proper ones. You really donít want a half-assed mix out there do you?

Agony - For me, the moment that Iím burning is agony. The reason being is that my computer gets a bit hinky. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes to burn Ė sometimes just a few minutes, and I never know what mood itís in.

Of course, the agony is exacerbated with the fact that with my computer, you can NOT multi-task while it is burning a CD, or it will shut down the burning process right away. So there have been times while I set a CD to burn, and Liz got on the computer and I dashed upstairs in fear and angst.

Ecstasy - Post burn, pre delivery. I have the CDs in my hand, and I get to listen to them in the car and at work before sending them on their way. Sometimes this is the best part, especially when you have a road trip upcoming and can use the CDs for road music and a final, final check before sending them on their way.

Of course, when the person is local, then thereís not a lot of time for the Ecstasy. So what Iíve been doing for the locals is playing the mix and making the labels as I listen to them, instead of downloading the playlist file and just using that as the base for the label.

My latest case of bliss was the mix I made for I, Engineer, that I just gave to her on Tuesday as we plotted our nefarious snack day. I think the flow of ďMr. Blue SkyĒ by ELO to ďOut of the BlueĒ by Roxy Music to ďBeyond BeliefĒ by Elvis Costello was pure genius on my part. (Go seek out the songs if you are unfamiliar, and put them together. Youíll see. Perfection!)

Longing - When you mail a mix to someone, you just wait for the email or phone call to say, ďTheyíve arrivedĒ. Mainly because you know the post office isnít 100% accurate.

Also, longing can also be part of the waiting for feedback. I have to rein myself in, and realize that not everyone listens to music like I do. In fact, because I tend to carpet bomb people with four to eight CDs, or even more, it may be a while before they get to them. Me, Iíd take a day or two just to knock them all out, like I did when I got a phalanx (love that word) of mixes all of a sudden from my friends scattered hither, thither and yon.

And when you make mixes that step out of someoneís normal comfort zone, like I did with Mz. Tonya, itís even worse, because you have no context or anything like that if this person liked the songs or not.

Satisfaction - A feeling you get when you know it was a job well done. When Designerchica posts on her MySpace blog about a song that you just gave her, you know you scored. When people send you long, detailed reviews, without asking, or ask you to comment in their blog about what you sent them, you know you did a good job.
When you send a mix to a real music fan, or even a music professional, and they send you excellent feedback, it makes you feel so good inside.

No, no one will like every song. I love the mixes everyone sent me, but there are songs I can take or leave, and some songs that didnít even make the iPod. So I know that not everyone will dig the Laughing Hyenas, understand the significance of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks ditty ďOrphansĒ, or get what ever the hell Captain Beefheart is trying to do, but still, they appreciate the effort, and you did turn them on to new sounds that may creep into their subconscious at some point.

So there you have it. My stages of the mix, sliced and diced for your pleasure.

Yeah, youíre right Harri3t; it is like Kubler-Ross. So I wonder, when she was on her death bed, did she herself go through the stages, or was she all above that? HmmmmÖ.


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